Wales’ World Cup campaign looks dull in Qatar.
Having reached their first World Cup finals for 64 years, Wales did not have the best of starts to their winter World Cup Group B battle, securing only a draw against the United States earlier this week. However, things got worse for manager Robert Page on Friday afternoon as they suffered a very unexpected and incredibly late 2-0 defeat to Iran out in Qatar.
For those who like a small flutter on their football matches, World Cup betting would have given incredible odds on the game playing out as it did. Despite better dominating possession and clearly having the more recognisable players on the world stage, Wales only managed ten efforts at goal across the 90 minutes, and only three of those were actually on target.
By contrast, despite having less of the ball, Iran put in a rather unexpected, far superior and much more consistent showing when compared with their earlier England efforts and they racked up 21 efforts at goal in total, with six on target and although the game finished 2-0, the scoreline could well have been higher as they hit the woodwork two or three times as well.
Fans inside of the stadium would have enjoyed the game they watched but the match turned on its head in the 86th minute when Welsh goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey had a rush of blood, and saw a straight red for an almost horror tackle on Medhi Taremi. Quite why the Video Assistant Referee technology was needed to deem it a reckless challenge was beyond most who saw it.
Having been reduced to ten men, eight minutes into stoppage time Iran struck first and with Wales shell shocked, they doubled their lead just three minutes later. Qualification through from Group B is now almost impossible for Wales and they will need a very good victory over England in their final group game next Tuesday evening, and they will be praying for a scoreless draw between the United States and Iran in their group closer. Even then, it would then boil down to goal difference.
Speaking after the final whistle had been blown, Wales captain and superstar Gareth Bale was clearly rattled with how the game had gone for them but he knew their dream of qualifying through to the knock out stages ‘will be difficult’.
“It’s gutting – there’s no other way to say it. We fought till the end but it’s difficult when you go down to 10 men in the World Cup against good teams. We have to keep going and we have to pick ourselves up straight away. It will be difficult now, but we have to try to beat England – it’s as simple as that.”
Manager Page was even more scathing about the performance he had just watched, unequivocally stating that the players did not perform anywhere ‘near the levels we’ve set’.
“When there are so many off days, there is only one outcome. It’s a difficult changing room at the minute, but we will be ready against England.”
One talking point that will come out of the game was again the performance of Bale, who has regularly produced a moment of magic to significantly help his country out down the years, but there was no hiding the fact that he was almost invisible in the game again and had the fewest touches of anybody who played the full 90 minutes.
If this is how he bows out of international football, he will be looking to perform far better in what is likely to be their final match.